A New York City education bureaucrat hit the panic button today, declaring that there are "hundreds" of kids in the public school system sick with the new strain of swine flu. The city government confirms that two more people have been hospitalized for symptoms consistent with the swine diagnosis. So far, no American has died from the influenza, while estimates of Mexican deaths are all over the place. The question isn't whether certain people have died, but whether they died of the swine flu. Someone really needs to nail this down so people can think straight about the situation.
Meanwhile, conspiracy theories continue to proliferate. Here's an amusing top-ten list of theories that leaves out some that are already quite popular, particularly any implicating the current American government or the "New World Order." Conspiracy theories now seem to emerge to explain any unusual event. This is more than just the usual "who benefits?" reasoning, though there is a growing presumption that someone, in theory, could "benefit" from practically any phenomenon. I've seen some writers describe what we're seeing as "magical thinking," which can itself be described as the Occam's Razor of fools. The desire for the simplest explanation often leads people to deduce that there must be a conscious will behind harmful events, since for some people the easiest explanation for anything is that somebody wanted it to happen. I suppose it's a sign of progress that this thought doesn't instantly cause people to try and appease the mysterious power, but it's not too much progress if the knee-jerk response is now to fight the still-mysterious power. Unfortunately, globalization has created fertile ground for this particular plague to spread, since it's all too easy today for people to believe that their fates are decided by forces beyond their control. It'd be glib of me to suggest that the cure involves figuring things out for themselves, but plenty of people will tell you they've done just that -- and they're still infected.